NEWPORT'S oldest department store will be closing its doors at the end of the year.

Wildings has played a prominent role in the city centre since 1874.

Managing Director Peter James announced to staff yesterday that after 144 years of trading the department store will close just before Christmas.

He said: “This is a very sad moment for the business but the losses we have been experiencing in recent years have been too great to sustain.

"First and foremost I would like to thank the current group of staff who have been so loyal to the company and made the store such a very nice place to work. 

"I would also like to thank all past members of staff who made the business what it was in years gone by. 

"Wildings has a rich and long history, and for most of that history it was a very successful Newport business which was run by local people.

"Over the years we spread our interests far beyond the boundaries of our home town. I would also like to pay recognition to our many loyal customers many of whom became friends over the years.”

He added: "It is now time to bow out and recognise that the economics of trading in Newport no longer work for us and we are not immune to the upheaval that has been affecting many retailers up and down the country”.

Mr James also revealed that a huge closing down sale will take place on October 10 to clear nearly £600,000 worth of stock that remains in the business.

An employee, who has worked at the company for more than six years, said he felt "gutted".

"A meeting was held with the director," he said.

"Everyone was told that the store would be closing either on December 21 or 22.

"We are all gutted. Wildings has played a massive part in Newport. It has been here for more than 100 years. When it goes, it will leave a massive hole in Newport."

People across Gwent have all reacted with shock to the news.

Risca resident Kath Harris said: "This is a special shop. It had a bit of everything.

"I had a wedding outfit from here.

"It is so sad."

And Paul Bradfield, 63, who lives in Cwmbran, added: "It is sad because it has always been here.

"When it does go it will take the heart out of Newport.

"I had been coming here since I was young."

And Councillor Allan Morris echoed similar remarks, saying: "This is truly a sad loss. It is one of Newport's finest shops.

"It has been very much part of Newport for many years."

The company had previously announced in 2016 that it would close its two upper floors, phasing out the sale of lingerie and menswear, and move its coffee shop to the first floor in the process. Out of the 36 positions at the Newport store, 15 were made redundant.

In May 2014, the store had undertaken a £140,000 refurbishment as part of a rebranding exercise but a continued fall in sales in recent years has left the business “with no choice”, said managing director Peter James.

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council called the announcement "disappointing news".

"Wildings has been an important part of the city centre," she said.

"We know the retail sector is under ongoing pressure as shopping habits change.”